February 1, 2014

Long-range bombing

Northwest Whitfield hits 3s, pull away late to top rival Southeast Whitfield

Devin Golden

— Southeast Whitfield High School’s boys basketball team went shot for shot with Northwest Whitfield for a little more than three quarters.

Then the Bruins stopped missing.

In a game with four ties, Northwest never trailed and pulled away in the final quarter for a 74-64 win in the Raiders’ gymnasium to complete the regular season sweep of the intracounty and Sub-region 7B-4A rivalry.

In the girls game, Northwest forced turnover after turnover and won 73-29 to stay unbeaten seven games into the sub-region schedule.

In the boys game, with Northwest (11-10, 5-2) ahead 54-48 with 6:10 to play, the Bruins’ Landon Cable hit a 3-pointer to put his team ahead by the biggest margin since the first quarter. He hit another 3-pointer for a 60-51 edge and Caleb Storey followed with a 3-pointer with less than 4:30 to play.

“When it comes to it, we’ve built our identity around not quitting,” Cable said, noting the Bruins “aren’t a tall team” but are blessed with shooters and depth. “We need hustle and heart. ... I think any teams needs that to win.”

Cable made a third 3-pointer in the quarter and buried Southeast (5-16, 2-5) in a 14-point hole at 68-54 with less than four minutes remaining. His nine points complemented Storey’s team-high 19, Caleb Branson’s 12 and Tanner Bailey’s 11.

“When Landon hit that third one, I couldn’t help but smile,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said. “I was proud for him and also our team.”

The Bruins made 4 of 6 3-pointers in the last quarter after hitting 7 of 20 in the first three quarters, when the Raiders seemed primed for their biggest win of the season.

“They made shots,” Southeast coach Jim Case said. “You make some and miss some, and they made a lot.”

Southeast tied the game 24-24 in the second quarter when Noah Ramsey converted a layup with 3:25 remaining in the period. The teams traded baskets twice before Andy Whisenant hit a 3-pointer to give Northwest a 31-28 edge and Caleb Story made it 33-28 with a turnaround jumper. But Ramsey again converted a layup, cutting Northwest’s lead to 33-30 going into halftime.

That was a much better outlook for the hosts than the first quarter, when Northwest scored the first nine points and led 16-5 before Southeast finished the period with a 6-0 run.

Rhett Harper’s game-high 25 points and Ty Pendley’s 24 made up almost 80 percent of Southeast’s offense.

Northwest girls 73, Southeast 29: The Lady Bruins (18-3, 7-0) forced 28 turnovers — 18 in the first half — and sprinted to a 48-19 lead at the break.

Like the boys teams, neither the Lady Bruins nor Lady Raiders had practiced or played since Monday, the last day this week Whitfield County Schools didn’t have activities canceled or postponed due to inclement weather. Northwest coach Greg Brown wasn’t at the Monday practice — his wife Carrie gave birth — and he admitted there were fears the team would play sloppy.

They never came close.

“I came in with realistic expectations and little did I know we’d play well,” Brown said. “What we did well is how we moved the ball. We found the open man and took good shots.”

Kerrigan King made four 3-pointers in the first half alone — three in the opening period — and finished with a team-high 14 points.

“They know I could shoot, because last time I hit a lot of (3-pointers) against them,” King said, noting Northwest’s up-tempo style also helped neutralize a week of less basketball than usual. “We always play like that. That’s our style.”

King’s third 3-pointer put Northwest ahead 25-12, the score when the first quarter ended. Cricket Wyatt hit a 3-pointer to begin the second quarter for Southeast (13-8, 3-4), but Mallory Souther’s basket started a 12-2 run for Northwest.

“In the first half, I really wasn’t unhappy with what went on,” Lady Raiders coach Mike Durham said. “We just missed a lot of good shots.”

Whitley Brooker added 10 points for Northwest while Halle Ford finished with seven points, five steals and four assists. Macy Weeks added nine points.

Wyatt finished with 15 points for Southeast.